Flexi jobs vital for keeping older workers in work longer

More flexible jobs could help older workers stay in work longer, says new report from Zurich UK.

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A lack of flexible job opportunities is the main obstacle preventing over 50s from staying in the workforce longer, according to new survey results.

Research from insurer Zurich UK found that nearly one in five UK adults over 50 are deterred from applying for new jobs because of a lack of flexible working opportunities.

It found that 34% of over 50’s would stay in the workforce for longer if flexible job opportunities were available – and a further 28% could be tempted out of retirement if they simply had the option to work from home.

Recent data from flexibility organisation Timewise shows that only 12% of job vacancies in the UK offer part-time hours and many of these are much lower paid roles. The same report found that just 30% of UK job vacancies advertise some form of flexible working such as remote working, home working or part-time hours.

The report comes after mounting concerns about over 50s dropping out of the workforce since the pandemic, many taking early retirement even though Zurich calculates that less than a quarter of over 50s have adequate savings for a comfortable retirement or leaving work due to ill health.

In the Budget, the Government announced funding for measures including increasing the number of people who can access the Mid-Life MOT offer via their local Jobcentre and a new digital Mid-Life MOT that will be introduced to help older workers understand what their employment choices mean for the long-term and their finances.

Zurich’s survey found that while pay is a significant factor for nearly a third (32%) of people in encouraging them to unretire, flexibility at work appears to hold virtually equal weighting (31%). Health and caring issues have been a major cause of early retirement for several years.

Zurich’s study shows that for more than one in five people, ill health or disability has been the catalyst for retirement, as well as mental ill health for a further 16%. Caring responsibilities are also a trigger for 16%. The figure for caring rises to 26% for those aged 50-55, which Zurich says suggests this cohort may be sandwiched between caring for different generations.

Moreover, with many businesses struggling to fill vacancies, nearly a third of older workers (30%) believe that companies do not welcome their skills and experience. Nearly one in four also said that a workplace culture where they feel valued and welcomed would encourage them to extend their working lives.

Steve Collinson, Chief HR Officer, Zurich UK said: “More than one in four of our UK employees is over 50 and we know that for them, flexibility is key.  We’ve been a flexible working employer for over a decade and all new roles are advertised as being available on a part-time or job-share basis.

“The feedback we hear is that people want to carry on working, but in a different way.  Our people tell us that they have other needs such as caring responsibilities, but they also want balance and time off for hobbies, volunteering, or travel. Our policies factor this in and include wellbeing and mental health support and more recently menopause. “

Zurich’s research on its policy of advertising all jobs as open to part-time and flexible working shows demand for part-time jobs has almost doubled (6% to 11%) since its launch.

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